Lowanna is an architect-led development that introduces much-needed density and diversity into an established inner-city suburb. The building, which maintains the proportions and character of the surrounding streetscape, occupies a site made up of three consolidated blocks. Despite its humble appearance, the development comprises a collection of 24 one and two bedroom apartments with terraces facing a common garden. According to the architect, who initiated the development with three friends, “The project has provided a good commercial outcome that has allowed appropriate budget for material selection and careful detailing. This will benefit the neighbourhood for years to come.”
The benefits of a carefully considered apartment complex are felt by the residents as well. The common entry through the car park, open stairs connecting the apartments and the extensive shared gardens all contribute to a sense of community in the complex. Private outdoor spaces are all oriented north, avoiding problems of overlooking. Inside the compact apartments, clever configuration of rooms and joinery means no space is wasted.
Lowanna is a solution for a demographic seeking an alternative to detached houses on large blocks and low quality apartments. Located near shops and transport, and with an emphasis on clever site planning and high quality construction, this model of development is inherently economical and sustainable. Around half the units are owner-occupied, and all the residents enjoy low running costs and the convenience of reduced car dependency.
However, the developers ran into frustrations with the planning requirement to provide more than one car space per dwelling and visitors’ parking. Six additional spaces were required despite the development's proximity to the city and the fact that the units were all one or two bedrooms. It transpired that none of the residents were willing to buy more than one car space, which were built underground at considerable expense.
Developments like this are a great contribution to the diversity of housing choice in Canberra. Inflexible planning regulations like the one mentioned above can make such innovative housing models unviable. Forward-thinking planning regulations can encourage even more innovation.
BRADDON LOWANNA APARTMENTS
Architects must be involved in the design, documentation and construction of sensitive re-development projects in the established residential parts of Canberra to allow for greater innovation, density and diversity of housing. This can be achieved by mandating the engagement of suitable qualified professionals for redevelopment sites as is currently required in other jurisdictions, for instance in State Environmental Planning Policy 65 in NSW.